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Rodney Nelson, Fargo, Published October 28 2013

Letter: What I am seeing on Broadway

I am an old writer living quietly in downtown Fargo. My last job, however (outside of writing), was at Ironwood State Prison in the Mojave Desert. I became familiar with the human typology there.

My windows overlook Broadway. I often recognize prison types among the street drunks. A once-shaven head gone bristly, tattoos (many of them “gangbanger”), hyper-vigilance to the point of twitchiness – these ring a bell.

There are quite a few of them and others on the street now. Yet Broadway is not their “hood,” not in any way. So they come and go, drifting.

No doubt they are attracted to Fargo-Moorhead by the availability of free meals and bunks and other services, not to mention the panhandling opportunities. One does not need a home to be a successful street drunk.

At Ironwood, I worked with mentally ill inmates in the administrative-segregation unit, so I was not considered an enemy – the correctional officers were that – but a “friend,” i.e., someone to be manipulated at a future date.

I hate to see mentally ill drifters on Broadway, but I do. They bring trouble on themselves and suffer. They also unwittingly cause it.

I do not like to think that certain human service programs here encourage street drunks in their dead-end vocation, but it seems to be the case.

The drunk can be in eighth grade forever – riding a bike, showing up for hot lunch, seeking an “allowance” from the public.